Providence & Peace(making)

Providence and peace go together.  Providence makes peace possible; and peace is the fruit of a genuine trust in God’s providence.  In truth, I would venture to say that an insufficient and/or underestimated view of God’s providence will in time undermine your peace.  Or to say it another way, your peace in the midst of conflict and adversity is proportionate to your view of God’s providence.  Peace that passes all understanding must take root in the bedrock of God’s exhaustive and meticulous providence–to borrow Bruce Ware’s terminology (God’s Greater Glory).

In his book on the subject, Ken Sande spends an entire chapter connecting the dots between God’s providence and our peace.  He shows from Scripture and from personal testimony, how Christians who have found peace in the greatest trials are the ones with the most unflappable assurance in God’s goodness and sovereignty.  This is what Sande writes,

God’s sovereignty is so complete that he exercises ultimate control even over painful and unjust events (Exod 4:10-12; Job 1:6-12; 42:11; Ps 71:20-22; Isa 45:5-7; Lam 3:37-38; Amos 3:6; 1 Peter 3:17). This is difficult for us to understand and accept, because we tend to judge God’s actions accoridng to our notions of what is right.  Whether consciously or subconsciously, we say to ouselves, “If I were God and could control everything in the world, I wouldn’t allow some one to suffer this way.”  Such thoughts show how little we understand and respect God…. Even when sinful and painful things are happening, God is somehow exercising ultimate control and working things out for his good purposes–[like in the case of Joseph, see Ps 105:16-25].  Moreover, at the right time God administers justice and rights all wrongs…Knowing that [God] has personally tailored the events of our lives and is looking out for us at every moment should dramatically affect the way we respond to conflict (Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, 61-62).

Understanding what the Bible teaches about God’s providence does not make us automatic peacemakers, but it is the first step.  We cannot make peace with others until we have made peace with God, or to put it more appropriately, more ‘Godwardly,’ until we have received his peace (cf. Eph 2:11-22).  Without this cornerstone of confidence–that is a settled belief that no sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s supervision (Matt 10:29), that no step is taken apart from God’s oversight (Prov 16:4, 9), and that no sin is committed apart from God’s mysterious permission (Job 1-2; Isa 45:7; Lam 3:37-38)–lasting peace will always suffer from this nagging doubt: “it could have been different.”  However, as soon as Scripture weighs in on the matter and persuades you of God’s complete and faultless providence, the peace which passes understanding is shortly to follow.

For amazingly, providence and peace-making have been on the mind of God from before the foundation of the earth.  Consider Peter’s words in Acts 3:23-24, “this Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” God’s peacemaking strategy  hinged on his definite and preordained plan to allow lawless men to arrest, try, and crucify his son, but for the divine purpose of atoning for the sins of the world and reconciling himself to his people (cf Acts 4:26-27).  In the cross, we must take heart and learn that the greatest affliction and horrors in this world can be redeemed by a God who loves his children and controls all things (Rom. 8:28).  He promises his children that our lives can and will be marked by suffering but also with comfort (2 Cor 1).  Thus we can have confidence that everything we experience in life has passed the inscrutable (and unsearchable) hands of God, and thus we can have peace in the God who upholds us and loves us.  Thus in a word: His providence secures our peace, which leads to the ability to make peace with others, even those who are the source of our pain.

As our church studies the principles of peacemaking, I was reminded that the bedrock of that process of reconciliation is the God who upholds all things and who gave his son into the hands of wicked men in order to save people from all nations.  May such an amazing vision of God’s sovereignty and sacrifice press us to be peacemakers.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Father, Son, & Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware

trinity_wareIn six biblically-saturated, clearly-articulated chapters, Southern Seminary professor Bruce Ware develops an historical, biblical, and practical look at one of the church’ most mystifying doctrines–the doctrine of the Trinity.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is densely packed with biblical data, but clearly outlined to help provided an accessible grip on the uniqueness of each member of the Godhead.

Written at a popular level, Ware argues for unity and diversity, harmony and distinction, authority and submission between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  He follows the Western understanding of the relationship; God is one substance, in three persons; the Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son (i.e. filioque) send the Spirit.  Ware uncovers the biblical data for these doctrines, but the strength of the book is its attention to application and the direct relationship that the Trinity must have in the church, the home, and in gender relations–hence, the subtitle, Relationships, Roles, & Relevance.

Consider the applications of each chapter:

On the Father: Marvel at the wisdom, goodness, care, and thoroughness of God’s authority; marvel at the perfection of his fatherhood; marvel at the wisdom of his divine delegation; marvel at his unsurpassing supremacy and glory; and look for ways to emulate and incorporate these fatherly traits.  In a world that despises and undermines authority, show gracious servant leadership that sacrifices yourself for those you are responsible to lead or oversee.

On the Son: Marvel at the submission of the Son to the Father for all eternity; marvel at the submission to the Spirit while on the earth; marvel at the relational love between Father and Son.  Personally, I sense this last application whenever I watch, hold, and care for my son.  What a gift that God would let us know the kind of Father-Son intimacy in our own families.

On the Holy Spirit: Be instructed by the Spirit’s humble willingness to participate in the Trinity virtually unnoticed without recognition or overt honor; ponder the willingness of the Spirit to assume authority over the son for a season and then to gladly relinquish that authority when Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father.  Most Christians will never be known, their names never documented by a biography or publicized for their great achievements.  They will be simple people who live lives depending on Jesus life, death, and resurrection.  In this, they are leading exemplary Spirit-filled lives.  I look forward to meeting those men and women. I want to be one of them.

On the Trinitarian Community:  Human relationships model the Triune relationship; the relationality of the Trinity calls for the creation of genuine Spirit-wrought community; the Trinity demonstrate equality in essence and eternal authority-submission that neither demeans nor devalues.  In this, America’s egalitarian church needs to be corrected.  It is wrong thinking to assert leadership and authority equals value.  Children are under their parents authority, but they have the same worth before God.  The authority-submission structure of the Trinity must overrule our culturally-determined proclivities.  Resultantly, husbands and wives must learn from the Trinity how to lead with love and submit with gladhearted respect, and churches must take God at his Word that men are to lead in the church and women are not to teach or have authority over men (cf. 1 Cor 11:4-6; 2 Tim. 2:12-15).  This is not a social construct.  This is a Trinitarian directive. 

In short, Bruce Ware’s book is a great introduction to the Trinity, especially for those who want to see how “Theology Proper” and “speculative” theology impacts our daily lives.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shows how the doctrine of the Trinity has everyday relevance and import. 

May we marvel at God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and may our minds and lives be transformed accordingly.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss